Have Christians blown their credibility in the modern era — and, if so, is it possible to get it back?
These are just two of the questions at the center of Phil Cooke and Jonathan Bock’s new book, “The Way Back: How Christians Blew Our Credibility and How We Get It Back,” with Cooke telling Faithwire where he believes Christians went wrong and how he thinks they can correct their cultural path.
“The fruit of the spirit … that’s what people are supposed to think of when they hear the word ‘Christian,'” he said. “But you go to a typical nonbeliever and ask what they think of Christians [and it’s negative].”
Cooke said that “Christianity is retreating” in society, explaining that he sees massive cultural differences when he juxtaposes today’s societal paradigm to the one he remembers as a child.
“When I was a kid, prayer in schools was perfectly normal, especially during exams, abortion was clearly wrong, marriage was understood as a sacrament between a man and a woman,” he said, noting that all of these sentiments have now been turned on their head. “We’ve gone from a culture where Christians were ignored to one where they are openly ridiculed.”
But as Christians have taken a variety of means to try and correct these issues, Cooke said that most of these tactics simply haven’t worked. From angry responses to politics, boycotts and petition drives, nothing has stopped the transformation of the culture away from biblical sentiment.
“None of these things we’ve tried have worked,” he said.
At the core of the matter is a fix that Cooke said must begin with individual Christians. After examining numerous behavioral indicators, he said that it’s clear that scores of contemporary Christians aren’t reading their Bibles (40 percent of churchgoing Christians read their Bibles rarely or never) and that believers are also failing in a plethora of other areas.
“We don’t think of ourselves as idol worshippers … however we’ve created this God — he looks a lot like the God of the Bible, but he understands why we don’t go to church — ‘We’re busy!'” Cooke sarcastically said, explaining that he believes many have actually created a God “in our own image.”
He said that he and his co-author looked back to the early church to find a blueprint of a cohesive Christian community — one that was effective and made a cultural impact. The irony is that the early church lacked money, influence and power, but actions, Cooke said, spoke louder than words.
Cooke share how the early church still managed to change hearts through action. Consider that the Roman empire was infamous for having a low regard for human life, with infanticide raging. He said people wouldn’t even name their children for weeks after birth just in case they decided not to keep their babies; and if they didn’t want the babies, they would simply let them die of exposure.
But Christians, he said, would go out in the dark of night, rescue those babies and raise them as their own. And that’s not all: When sickness hit, Christians would also rush in to help save lives, while Romans fled. Over time, these kind acts transformed Romans’ perspectives.
These lessons, two millennia later, offer Christians a powerful lesson on how to move the cultural dial, Cooke said: “Start showing the fruit of the spirit in your life.”
“I want people to understand, first of all we’ve got to commit,” he said, adding that accepting Jesus and living out Christian values go hand-in-hand. “We’ve business class cozied it up to ‘accepting Jesus’ … it’s amazing how uncommitted we are. Commitment is the key.”
Considering where we are, culturally speaking, this advice seems sound. Getting back to basics and living faith out is akin to letting actions speak louder than words. Find out more in “The Way Back: How Christians Blew Our Credibility and How We Get It Back.”